Remembering

I’m sitting here remembering something.

It smells like 2006 in my office.

New Jersey.

Someone is wearing LoveSpell.

That’s it. That’s what smells like 2006 New Jersey.

I’m remembering…

Remembering…..

It’s amazing to me. One minute, I’m sitting at my desk, writing an email, and the next minute, I’m back in my basement office in Flemington. The one with the framed Hubble telescope photos hanging on the wall, since I didn’t have any windows. My dog, an ancient black cocker spaniel, is snoring in the corner. NPR is on the radio in the background. I’m wearing a uniform. I’m writing curriculum for children’s programming.

My phone rings, and I snap back to the present.

There’s no uniform. No dog. No basement office. Just me, in my black dress, in my office with the wall of windows that looks out onto a field, and my three co-workers typing away.

Here. Now.

I breathe a sigh of relief and go back to work…and I wonder – will there ever be a day when I’m not haunted by my past? When a smell, or a sight, or a song won’t send me right back to another time and place?

It’s been a bit of a rough weekend.

I’ve been struggling to stay in the present, in the right now.

Friday, it was burning popcorn. I took my eyes off the machine for less than a minute, and it burned. I was instantly back at ground zero in NYC. My heart raced. My hands went numb and clammy. I fought and fought to stay focused on the here and now. I’m in my theatre. In my town. In 2017. I’m safe. I’m safe. IT’S JUST BURNING POPCORN. JUST POPCORN.

I didn’t sleep well that night. Kept waking myself up, making sure that I wasn’t going to fall into a nightmare.

Saturday, it was a photo on Instagram. A photo of a place I spent 15 summers of my life. Great memories there, at camp, but it was also a place of intense indoctrination.

I dreamed of it Saturday night.

I was back at the camp, working – but with the freedom and knowledge of the person I am now, instead of the person I was then.

I couldn’t hide, couldn’t conform.

Couldn’t find my things in order to pack up and flee.

Couldn’t get out.

Couldn’t find my way.

I woke up screaming.

Sunday morning. My beloved UU church. A sermon series entitled Words that Unite/Words that Divide.

The topic: Jesus.

I should have known better.

I should have listened to my gut when I thought about just dropping off the chalice I’d taken home to clean and getting the hell out of there for the day.

I should have listened to myself.

I thought I could handle it.

I thought that, 6 years out, I could handle it.

I’m a strong person. I could handle it…

I couldn’t handle it.

The first song was one that was wildly popular in my old life. Sunday school, church, campfires at summer camp – it was one of the first songs that children learned, and one that I’d sung thousands of times.

The music director started playing, and I was remembering something.

By the time we were halfway through the first verse, I wasn’t just remembering.

I was struggling to stay present.

I was losing the struggle.

I was back in Cincinnati. At Swoneky. In NYC. In Maine. In NJ. In Turkey. In South Carolina. In every corps hall and camp…

I was spinning. I couldn’t keep up with my own mind.

It wasn’t just a memory anymore. It was…something worse. Something more sinister. I couldn’t break out of it. I was trying…and failing.

I barely heard the reading, the reflection. The sermon bounced off me without comprehension. I was dangerously close to…something. I didn’t know, and I didn’t want to stick around to find out.

So I did something I haven’t done since the first few weeks I started attending UUCV. I bolted.

Waited until a moment when everyone was on the move, grabbed my bag, and left.

Parked at the lake, stuck my feet in the cold water, and cried.

I thought I could handle it.

I couldn’t handle it.

I wanted to be able to handle it.

I wanted to be over it.

I want to be able to remember without going back there so vividly.

I don’t want to have to run away or avoid certain situations any more.

I want to…

I want…

I want

To

Be

Free.

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